Monday, April 25, 2011

Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (1552–1599) is best known for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. Spenser himself described it as an allegory, with the knights which appear in the various books symbolizing various Christian virtues. The Redcrosse Knight in Book 1, for example, represents holiness, and also suggests the patron saint of England — St. George. It was the C.S. Lewis book The Allegory of Love (1936) which helped to re-establish the importance of The Faerie Queene.

Spenser was not born to an influential family, but gained attention with the assistance of such contemporaries as Sir Philip Sydney and Sir Walter Raleigh.

The spelling in his poetry traditionally is not standardized since he often deliberately wrote in an archaic style, partly in tribute to Chaucer. He was an influential innovator in poetic forms, including what is called the Spenserian sonnet (with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b-b-c-b-c-c-d-c-d-e-e) as exemplified in the following poem.

Sonnet #68

Most glorious Lord of lyfe, that on this day,
---Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
---And having harrowd hell, didst bring away
---Captivity thence captive us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin,
---And grant that we for whom thou diddest dye
---Being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
---May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
---May likewise love thee for the same againe:
---And for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
---With love may one another entertayne.
So let us love, deare love, lyke as we ought,
---Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Edmund Spenser: second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paul Willis

Paul Willis is an English professor at Westmount College in Santa Barbara, California. Besides writing poetry, he has published essays such as those in his book Bright Shoots of Everlastingness (WordFarm); he also has a novel forthcoming.

A dominant influence on his life and writing has been being a mountaineer. He grew up in Oregon, close to the Cascade Mountains, where he was wholly “summit bound”. He and his brother recklessly sought to climb every peek in their state, and were “very nearly obliterated” doing it. In one attempt to climb Alaska’s Mount McKinley, Paul’s brother lost his hands and feet to frostbite, while Paul was hallucinating — still 800 feet from the top.

Mountaineering has also drawn him towards the work of pioneer naturalist John Muir, and inspired him to pursue ecological issues. The following is the title poem from his most-recent poetry collection.

Rosing from the Dead

We are on our way home
from Good Friday service.
It is dark. It is silent.
“Sunday,” says Hanna,
“Jesus will be rosing
from the dead.”

It must have been like that.
A white blossom, or maybe
a red one, pulsing
from the floor of the tomb, reaching
round the Easter stone
and levering it aside
with pliant thorns.

The soldiers overcome
with the fragrance,
and Mary at sunrise
mistaking the dawn-dewed
Rose of Sharon
for the untameable Gardener.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

This is the first of three Kingdom Poets posts about Paul Willis: second post, third post, fourth post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Scott Cairns

Scott Cairns is the author of six poetry collections — the most recent being his new and selected poems, Compass of Affection (Paraclete Press). His poems have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, Image and Poetry. He has taught at several universities, and is currently Director of Creative Writing at University of Missouri.

Cairns has long believed that poetry should be more than merely a record of something that has previously happened, but that it needs to be something of significance in itself. In discussing positive changes that have occurred within the art of poetry, Scott Cairns said in Image just over a decade ago, “The new poetry, a poetry which employs language as agency and power rather than merely as name for another and prior thing, demands that it be read and re-read, and poked, and puzzled over as an event of its own. The poem is not about a thing; it is a thing.”

The following poem is from his 1998 collection, Recovered Body.

The More Earnest Prayer of Christ

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly…
----------------------------------— Luke 22:44

His last prayer in the garden began, as most
of his prayers began–in earnest, certainly,
but not without distraction, an habitual…what?

Distance? Well, yes, a sort of distance, or a mute
remove from the genuine distress he witnessed
in the endlessly grasping hands of multitudes

and, often enough, in his own embarrassing
circle of intimates. Even now, he could see
these where they slept, sprawled upon their robes or wrapped

among the arching olive trees. Still, something new,
unlikely, uncanny was commencing as he spoke.
As the divine in him contracted to an ache,

a throbbing in the throat, his vision blurred, his voice
grew thick and unfamiliar; his prayer–just before
it fell to silence–became uniquely earnest.

And in that moment–perhaps because it was so
new–he saw something, had his first taste of what
he would become, first pure taste of the body, and the blood.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Scott Cairns: second post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gabriela Mistral

Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral (1889—1957) was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945). Her work is significantly influenced by her faith — with death and rebirth being important themes. She was an early encourager of the young, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

In 1909, the man she loved, Romelio Ureta, committed suicide — an event which significantly impacted her early poetry. Her second collection Desolación (1922), which brought her international attention, is primarily about Christian faith and death.

She lived outside of Chile for many years — including in Mexico, France, Italy and the United States — serving as a consul in several European, Latin American and US cities. American poet Langston Hughes translated several of her poems, which appeared shortly after her death.

Decalogue Of The Artist

I. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God
over the Universe.

II. There is no godless art. Although you love not the
Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.

III. You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul.

IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.

V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair
or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.

VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song,
and you shall be the first to be purified.

VII. The beauty you create shall be known
as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.

VIII. You shall bring forth your work as a mother
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.

IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action,
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman,
you will fail to be an artist.

X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble,
for it is never as great as your dream and always
inferior to that most marvellous dream of God
which is Nature.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: